They Keep Making Cars Safer…

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But what about us?

Air bags and crumple zones make a car more crashworthy. But they don’t make it less likely we’ll crash the car.

That’s still up to us, to a great extent at least. 

To avoid crunching the sheetmetal:

* Stay awake –

Some of us can stay alert longer than others, but eventually, we all get tired. The trick is making a pit stop before fatigue begins to degrade our ability to drive safely.

The general rule is at least one stop/leg stretch/cofee/bathroom break for every 4-5 hours of driving time – and a stop for the night after 8-10 hours of driving in any given 24.

If you’re a young kid, you can probably do more. Keep an empty 2 liter Pepsi bottle with you to fill up with pee and you can  even skip bathroom stops. I used to do this – and I have driven across the country in three days of almost non-stop driving. It’s doable. But it’s not a good idea…   

* Stay  reasonable –

When another motorist cuts you off or rides your bumper, the temptation is to flip them the bird – or worse. But that can (and sometimes, does) just escalate the situation. Two drivers hurling insults at each other and using their cars as tow-ton projections of their rage can lead to tragic – and 100 percent avoidable – results.

Even if you’ve been objectively wronged, the best policy is to give the inconsiderate/rude/dangerous driver as wide a berth as you can. Use your cell phone, if necessary, to call the cops if the other driver is genuinely being a reckless dick.. Let the cops deal with it. Drive on.

You have no way of knowing how far the other driver might take things. You could be ready for a shouting match.

He might have a gun.

* Stay polite –

Extending common courtesy to your fellow motorists eases tension on the road and makes for a much more civil – and safe – experience.

Let merging traffic merge. Don’t park your car in the fast lane with the cruise control set at 3 mph over the speed limit. If another driver wants to pass, move over and let him. It’s not your job to enforce the speed limit. Pay attention to what’s going on around you – and be ready to go when the light turns green – instead of being  too busy chatting on your cell phone to notice. And if you inadvertently do something you shouldn’t have or didn’t mean to do – such as pulling out in front of someone – a smile and “I’m sorry” hand signals can defuse tensions quickly. We all make mistakes – and most people are quick to forgive – provided the mistake is acknowledged.

* Stay focused –

If you are the driver, your focus should be on the road at all times; everything else – the kids, what’s on the radio, fiddling with the GPS or making a call, etc. – ought to be secondary. As cars have grown in complexity, potential distractions have multiplied – and the number of accidents attributable to “distracted driving” continues to increase.

Though it’s very tempting to multi-task behind the wheel – especially when you spend two or three hours per day in your vehicle – it’s a temptation you should try to resist.

* Stay prepared –

Though modern cars are exceptionally reliable it’s still smart to anticipate potential problems – and try to be prepared for them. That might include keeping a can of emergency tire inflator/sealant in the vehicle – especially when you are headed out on a long trip (or are someone who might have difficulty changing a tire by yourself). A cell phone, pad and pencil (not pen; they can leak or just stop working), emergency flares, loose change (for using pay phones when cell service is unavailable) and a pair of gloves (so you don’t get your hands covered with grime that then ruins your car’s interior) are good things to have in the trunk. 

Most important of all: If you’re traveling alone, it’s smart policy to let someone know where you’re headed – and when you expect to get there.

Throw it in the Woods? 

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